Dear non-Japanese Asians talking about books on Japan

Today, I noticed an AsianAm author* whom I admire gushing on Twitter about a non-Japanese, non-Asian author** writing Japanese-inspired fantasy novels. I went to the author’s blog/website to see what she had to say about writing Japan – and noticed some disturbing trends.

First and foremost, this author has an academic background (graduate level) in Japanese history. While this in and of itself doesn’t particularly matter to me, as I read through her blog posts on writing about Japan, I noticed she continually referenced her academic background as both the basis of and source of research for her Japanese-inspired novels. From the photographs included, it looks as if she has visited Japan at least once and has some level of Japanese literacy. However.

Nowhere in the posts I skimmed (I did not read the entirety of her blog) did I see any mention of her ethnic/cultural relationship(s) to Japan. In other words, nowhere does she state whether or not she is Japanese and (as I believe from contextual clues) if she is not, nowhere does she acknowledge how her outsider perspective influences her representations of Japanese culture. Nowhere does she discuss any research she conducted outside of an academic context. Nowhere does she acknowledge the limitations of approaching Japanese culture purely through a western, academic lens.

This worries me. While her academic background perhaps qualifies her to conduct (western) academic research on Japan, I see no indication she has attempted to step outside the academic box in writing her Japanese-inspired novels. I don’t even see any indication she is aware of the box. As I’ve discussed at length in previous posts, I don’t believe the western academic lens is the only – much less the most appropriate – approach to Japanese culture. Nor do I believe anyone approaching Japanese culture solely through a western academic lens can hope to end up with anything other than a western academic product. Yet, I don’t see this author or any other non-Japanese, western authors writing about Japan marketing their novels as “western academic products.” What I do see is these novels being marketed as “diverse reads” by big names in writing/publishing – both white and nonwhite. I see more novels produced by outsiders writing about Japan ON “diverse” reading lists and blogs than novels by Japanese people writing about Japan. I see more works produced by outsiders writing on Japan IN anthologies and venues dedicated to “Asian” literature than works by Japanese people writing on Japan – even in cases where most of the other contributors are #ownvoices. Some of these (English-language) spaces are created by Asians and/or non-Asian, nonwhite folks – but I’ve yet to see any created by Japanese people. The message is clear: those in power put more market value on Japanese stories told by non-Japanese (especially white) people than on #ownvoices telling Japanese stories.

At this time, I have no plans to read the work of the author mentioned above. I do not believe someone truly conscious (and conscientious) of the complexities and nuances inherent to writing outside their culture would fail to acknowledge their outsider perspective when describing their work. By the same token, I have no plans to endorse or participate in spaces where I feel non-Japanese voices are privileged over #ownvoices in the telling of Japanese stories. I’ve had enough. My time and resources are limited and I will utilize them to experience and boost #ownvoices.***

But I’m not done yet.

There is also a second issue at stake here, one which I feel in some ways is more concerning than what I described above, namely because it seems to perpetuate the trend of outsiders writing Japan (and believing they are doing so competently). In this author’s case and that of many other non-Japanese (and usually white) authors writing about Japan, I have seen, time and again, endorsements from non-Japanese Asians, including some very prominent voices in online writing communities. Here is the problem: you can’t have it both ways. Many of these same prominent, non-Japanese Asian authors/agents/editors, etc. have eloquently and vehemently advocated for equity in (mostly US) publishing. They have slammed publishers and agents alike for paying lip service to “diversity” while continuing to represent/commend mostly white authors. They have created and participated in organizations, blogs, conferences, and other vehicles of activism to promote and support marginalized voices. This is great work, and not to be dismissed or taken lightly. But.

When these same advocates endorse outside writers for writing cultures that neither the writer nor the endorser belongs to – this is a problem.

For example, do I, as a Japanese person, tell non-Chinese writers I think their representations of Chinese culture(s) are “well-researched” or “respectful?” Yeah no. Because why in the world should my non-Chinese voice take precedence over Chinese voices in vetting representations of Chinese culture(s)?**** Why would I, a non-Chinese person, presume to know MORE about what constitutes a “well-researched” or “respectful” representation of Chinese culture(s) than a Chinese person? I’m not saying every self-identified Chinese person is responsible for knowing everything ever about their culture. No one person of ANY culture is responsible for knowing everything ever about their culture. I’m saying, it’s not my job, or any other non-Chinese person’s job, to jump in with our non-Chinese opinions to silence, deny, or erase Chinese voices vetting representations of their OWN culture(s).

Just because someone self-identifies as Asian does not qualify them to vet representations of all Asian cultures. It does not even necessarily qualify them to vet all representations of their own culture. I do not evaluate the “accuracy” or “authenticity” of representations of cultures outside my own because I believe it is disrespectful to the members of the culture in question. By the same token, I cannot and do not state someone did “thorough research” on a culture when, as an outsider, I don’t know what “thorough research” means in the context of that culture. To position myself as any kind of “authoritative” voice on the representations of someone else’s culture makes me no better than the people who write outside their cultures without ever interrogating their own identities in relation to their subject.

I don’t believe I’m making a complicated point here. I don’t believe it’s a point that is beyond the grasp of the prominent, non-Japanese Asians in writing/publishing. I’ve read their work – it’s insightful, nuanced, eloquent, and smart as hell. So, then, why does this happen? Why do they continue to give the green light to outsiders writing about Japan without apparently realizing they are erasing Japanese perspectives on that same work? Why do they slam people for stereotyping Asians as “all the same” yet perpetuate some of that “sameness” by offering their not-Japanese-but-still-Asian opinions on representations of Japanese culture rather than finding actual Japanese people and asking for their opinions?*****

I believe in solidarity. I believe there is value in Japanese, Asian, and other nonwhite writers creating spaces for themselves and with each other to overcome institutionalized white supremacy in publishing. But I believe we can achieve this WITHOUT speaking over each other. I believe we can do this in ways that don’t leave me feeling as if my opinion and other Japanese opinions aren’t heard simply because those who create harmful, uninformed representations of us fail to look beyond the non-Japanese Asian folks endorsing their work. I believe all of us Asians can do better when it comes to representations of each other’s cultures. We KNOW we’re not all the same. Most of us probably know how painful it is to see outsiders misrepresent our cultures in one way or another. So, let’s not silence, deny, or erase each other in the same way. If it’s not our culture in question, let’s not offer an opinion on how “well” it was represented. Instead, let’s find a fellow member of our community who DOES belong to that culture and ask them for their opinion.

Thanks for reading! Next time, I’ll discuss why I think Asians endorse outsider representations of other Asian cultures. (And I’ll be speaking for myself only, not Every Asian Ever or Every Japanese Person Ever.)

*She is not Japanese.

**There is no mention on this author’s blog/website or in interviews with this author of her ethnic/cultural background. On her blog and in interviews, she describes herself as a student of Japanese history. I will assume she is white until/unless otherwise shown. I have yet to come across a nonwhite author whose ethnic/cultural background is never referenced on either their personal website or in interviews.

***Don’t worry, you privileged outsiders you. The stats already show there is a market for your work. Your sales won’t vanish just because you aren’t worth my time. If you don’t believe me, can you name more than three Japanese people writing on Japan – who are not based in Japan? Now name more than three non-Japanese people writing on Japan – who were published in the last year. Was one of those easier to do than the other?

****Apologies for the semantics here. I realize there are many cultures and ethnic groups in what westerners refer to as “China.” If any self-identified Chinese people can point me to alternative terminology that is more preferable from a #ownvoices perspective, please let me know!

*****So, I have what is probably going to be a fairly unpopular opinion on why this happens, but since this post is getting long, I’ll write about it next time.

Dear Academia, Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, I talked broadly about my experiences with the colonizing forces of western (US) academia and some questions I have for the folks who choose to work in it professionally. Today, I’m back to discuss my concerns about what happens when the worlds of colonial academia and fiction writing collide.

When I first encountered online discussions of “diversity” in literature, I read a LOT of book reviews, amateur and professional alike. I especially enjoyed reviews by insiders – in other words, readers belonging to the marginalized group(s) represented in the book – maybe because, after years of seeing so many [insert unfavorable adjective here] outside representations of Japanese culture, I no longer trusted outside perspectives when it came to vetting cultural representation. Give me #ownvoices any day.

At the same time, I noticed a troubling trend in these reviews. Often, whether the review was favorable or unfavorable, the reviewer would discuss the author’s “research.” For favorable reviews, there was often praise for the number of sources the author seemingly utilized, sometimes accompanied by a quote from the author, to the effect of, “I read X number of books and employed Y number of beta readers!” For unfavorable reviews, there were often comments about the author’s “lack of research,” or “Wikipedia-esque” (read: lazy) level of investigation, sometimes accompanied by an incriminating quote from the author, along the lines of, “oh, this is just [insert culture]-INSPIRED fantasy – so I made stuff up to fill in my knowledge gaps!”

Obviously, one of the above scenarios is less desirable than the other, but beyond that, notice any similarities between the two? It’s probably easier to spot if you, too, read insider reviews. What I want to emphasize is this: in most reviews, favorable or unfavorable, the reviewers didn’t appear to question the word “research.” A number of them suggested research sources – books, articles, blogs, interviews, multimedia, etc – but the ideological framework governing the use of these sources was never discussed. In other words, no one came out and said, “but if you utilize these sources in a purely US-based, western-based context, you will still be missing a lot.”*

If you aren’t sure what I’m getting at, here’s an analogy to help. Have you heard of Haruki Murakami?** Maybe you’ve read his work? If you haven’t, he is a Japanese author who has been widely translated in English and other languages. Have you read his work in Japanese? If not, do you ever get the feeling you are “missing out” by reading a translation? Do you wonder if there are puns, references, or other cultural nuances in the original Japanese text that have been omitted from the translation for whatever reason?***

Now consider this: translators are folks who have trained SPECIFICALLY to navigate and reinterpret cultural differences through language. The average fiction writer? Statistically, they probably aren’t professionally trained in any kind of cross-cultural communication. And yet, every year, there are tons of books churned out by folks writing cultures not their own. What DO most of these writers have? In the US, probably some kind of exposure to the US education system – probably at least ten years of it, most likely more. Ten-plus years of increasingly rigorous and nuanced ways to view the world – through a (white) western, US lens. On top of that, however many additional years of navigating a (white) western, US professional world, if they have finished school. And yes, the above applies to both white and nonwhite US-based writers.**** By the time these folks get around to writing (and publishing), they’ve been immersed in western-centric, US-centric ideologies and practices for a long time – and from what I’ve seen, most of them don’t even realize it.

Think about it. If you are a US-based writer and you are reading this, do you self-identify as “American?” Have you ever questioned what that means? Have you ever wondered if it is problematic?

If your answers to the above questions were “no,” consider this: if you can’t/haven’t/won’t interrogate the nuances and problematic aspects of your own national/cultural identity, what makes you think you are adequately prepared to represent someone else’s?

If you are a US-based writer who self-identifies as “American” without seeing anything problematic in your choice AND you are preparing to write about a culture not your own – check your privilege. If you think you have “American” all figured out to the point where it is not as “interesting,” or “diverse,” or “underrepresented” as the culture you are planning to write about – think again, because you are missing something. I’m not saying you can’t write about that other culture – I can’t stop you from writing anything. But recognize that if you ARE looking beyond national/racial/cultural borders because you don’t think there is anything “interesting,” “diverse,” or “underrepresented” left to explore in what you call, “American” – stop and look back.

Unfortunately, as a quick look at recent YA releases in the US reveals, many US-based writers are unaware of or ignore the problematic implications of their western-centric perspectives. The standard remains “thorough” and “respectful” research, but no one questions whether the base definition of “research” as it is defined in US academia might not be the most appropriate way to approach another culture. This is especially important to keep in mind for writers utilizing the POV of a character from a culture other than their own. Assuming you make it as far as actually talking to people from the culture you are representing – and judging by insider reviews, this happens far less often than it needs to – if you are really LISTENING to their words, ideally your takeaway is along the lines of, “wow, there is a lot I don’t know and can’t know because I’m not an insider – and I need to figure out how to acknowledge this in my writing” – as opposed to, “wow, I know so much now and I am totally qualified to write from this character’s POV!”

The bottom line is, there are things you can’t learn – not because you didn’t read enough books, or visit enough locations, or interview enough people, but because you are not them. There is no methodology to get around this. There is no high-tech button or magic spell. Your research will get you farther than people who didn’t do any – but it is not and never will be a substitute for insiders telling their own stories. If you can’t acknowledge this, write about something else. Writing as an outsider without acknowledging how your perspective dissociates your voice from those of insiders is privileged, disrespectful, and harmful. Be aware of yourself. Be aware of the frameworks that shaped your perspective. You are part of something larger than yourself. You do not operate in a vacuum. Individual accountability is also cultural accountability. If you are writing as a self-identified “American” with no reservations, I can guarantee your work will reflect the same ignorant privilege and colonial mentality. You can’t vet something if you don’t even realize it’s there.

Fellow writers, we can do better. Creativity is a formidable weapon – and we all have arsenals packed full of it. If we can bring characters, worlds, and stories to life merely by typing words onto a page, we can apply those same imaginative skills to our roles as writers. We can create POVs that acknowledge how our perspective differs from that of the character/culture in question, or plots and themes which address the outsider/insider dilemma. We can develop character attributes and settings which don’t stereotype, exotify, or otherwise harm the people we write about. We have vast imaginations – we just need to utilize them as learners, not colonists. Let’s open our minds to what others have to say, not take their words and try to fit them into premade boxes.

People smarter than me have already challenged the institutionalized prejudices inherent to terms like “literature” and “craft” – now, we can also push the boundaries of “research.” We can find the courage to reject the safety net of our US education***** and seek guidance from #ownvoices. Ask them, what does “research” mean to you? What should I do in order to gain what you would consider a thorough understanding of x topic? Is it appropriate for me, as an outsider, to write about x topic? If the answer is, throw your Ivy League book learning and PhD out the window and do y thing instead, do it. If the answer is, come to our community and live among us and practice our customs for z amount of time, do it. If you aren’t prepared to do what is asked of you, reevaluate your commitment to your topic. If you cut and run when things get uncomfortable and/or unfamiliar, you aren’t the best person to tell this story.

Thanks for reading! Check out the Resources page – links are getting ever closer to being fully live – for assorted opinions on similar topics. There may be a Part 3 of this series, but no promises. Until next time!

*Some of these reviewers also self-identify as “American” or “[insert culture] American.” While I don’t begrudge them the ability to call themselves whatever they want, I do wonder if they’ve considered ALL the aspects of claiming an “American” identity. See my post on “Japanese American” identity for an explanation of what I mean by this.

**I mostly use first name-last name on this blog for consistency, but occasionally you’ll see me use last name-first name if I feel like it. In Japan, it is last name-first name.

***I have yet to read Murakami in Japanese, but I can confirm these losses occur when manga is translated from Japanese to English. I highly recommend reading the original Japanese whenever possible…because TWITCH. (Don’t get me started on dubbed anime.) I chose Murakami for the analogy because I often see readers of the English translations of his work praising his use of language – which erases both the original Japanese text and the translator’s role. More on translation and language in a future post, I think.

****Nonwhite writers, with the knowledge gained through their lived experiences, probably have at least some idea of what they are getting into when they choose to write about a culture not their own; however, nonwhite people are not immune to white supremacy. As I’ve said before, we don’t get a free pass on cultural rep just because we’re not white.

*****Something that greatly interests me but that I haven’t been able to speak to many people about is the globalization of western-based practices, from education to economics to aesthetics and beyond. As a US-based, nonwhite writer looking outward, I feel that what I refer to as “(white/western) colonization” has had certain similar effects around the world as it has had in the US – and not all FROM the US, either. (Insert your semi-regular reminder that white/western colonization was happening long before the US came into the picture. As much as we – fellow US-based writers – acknowledge the past/present/future effects of colonization in the US and our roles in it, let’s not forget the rest of the planet. Acknowledge your role, but don’t center yourself in a discussion that actually has global scope.) But, I don’t have the lived experiences of being non-US-based to back this up. I’d like to hear more from non-US voices who DO have these lived experiences – what do you-all think about the effects (if any) of westernization on your nation/ethnicity/culture?

Dear Academia, Part 1

I’d better preface this post by briefly outlining my educational background, since educational experiences are far from universal. All of my academic education has taken place in the US, from preschool through college. I currently hold a Bachelor of Arts from a west coast liberal arts college. I have no plans at this time to pursue additional degrees. That’s probably all you need to know for the purposes of this post.*

Today, I’m back to wrestle with a question – or a series of questions – which I started to consider during college and to which I continue to seek satisfactory answers as I navigate post-academia life. While I think anyone with an interest or stake in the US education system might find this post worth a read (inasmuch as any of my posts are worth a read, ha), my questions will be directed primarily at professionals in US academia.

Until I reached college, I hadn’t thought much about the origins of the education system I was being put through. It was simply there, a seemingly eternal and immovable framework, meant to guide me from a state of not knowing to a state of knowing something. I didn’t consider who defined “not knowing” or “knowing something,” or how, when, and why they did it. When people I knew talked about volunteering overseas with their church groups, or teaching English in other countries, I accepted both as unquestionably “good” deeds. If “we” had resources and knowledge that “they” didn’t, it was only fair and right for us to share, wasn’t it? “We” would feel good about ourselves; “they” would feel grateful for the opportunities.

Sophomore year of college, those of us in my major were strongly advised to choose an area of specialty. I chose American Indian cultures and histories.** In keeping with the tenets of our methodology course, I sought out books, articles, interviews, oral histories, visual media, websites – basically anything tangible that was not a cultural artifact that I could get my hands on – for my research. I paid close attention to the creators of these source materials and tried to locate Native voices wherever possible, but it wasn’t until I shifted from materials generated BY academia FOR academia to materials generated by NON-academics that I started to question myself.

It was easiest to see in historical, primary accounts – things spoken (and transcribed) and written by people who had lived in eras far different from the one I knew. Sometimes it was how the passage of time was described, or a geographic location. Sometimes it was a cultural practice. Sometimes it was doing a side-by-side comparison of two accounts of the same battle, one from a Native perspective, one from a white perspective. As someone who grew up bilingual and often encountered questions about translation, I started to wonder how much was being distorted or lost in these primary accounts, especially when it was an English transcription of an oral account originally given in a Native language and filtered through an interpreter. If you’ve ever attempted live translation or a multilingual conversation involving parties who only know some of the languages being spoken, you know what a hassle it can be trying to communicate certain points in a way that everyone understands. While I can’t presume to map my personal experiences with translation onto the experiences of Native people who have had their words transcribed and/or translated, I did wonder if any of them had experiences similar to mine. And if they had, then – was there a chance this “primary” source I was analyzing so heavily wasn’t so “primary” after all?

We had, of course, been warned to review every source with a grain of salt, because people distort, omit, forget, embroider, or otherwise record things in a variety of ways for a variety of reasons. But this felt different, somehow. Why?

I went back to my secondary sources and looked for material written by Native scholars. It didn’t take long to find answers.*** I quickly realized certain Native perspectives on colonization differed significantly from how the topic was covered in my classes. Discussions of land usage, reparations, historical trauma, artifact custodianship, tribal governments, reservation life, language preservation, and cultural appropriation (and more) drove home not only the extent to which colonization affected Native peoples, but the fact that it never ended.****

For the next two years, this notion of ongoing colonization floated around in my head. It wasn’t that I was unwilling to acknowledge I, too, was a colonist – for some reason, I never had the knee-jerk NO response to this that some people had when I tried to broach the subject with them – but rather the sense that my understanding of the concept was still missing giant chunks of vital information.

One of these giant chunks fell into place in my senior year, when I chose American Indian boarding schools as my thesis topic. These schools have been written about in-depth from both primary and secondary perspectives, so I won’t elaborate on them here, but suffice to say, it wasn’t a giant leap from looking at the assimilationist tactics used in these schools to looking at the US education system today and seeing some troubling parallels in the ideological frameworks governing both. Below is a partial list of examples:

  • Lessons taught in English
  • ESL lessons
  • Western-centric research methodologies
  • Western-centric academic evaluation standards
  • Western-centric behavioral standards
  • Western-centric “culture” of academia
  • Topics pertaining to nonwhite peoples/cultures taught by (white) outsiders
  • Non-English languages taught by (white) outsiders

If you aren’t sure why these things can be problematic, here are a few specifics. Recall my previous example of an oral account given in a Native language, translated by an interpreter, and transcribed in English. I’ll make a flowchart to illustrate.

Oral account (in Native language) –> oral account (in English) –> written account (in English)

At every transition in the flowchart, there are opportunities for distortion. The number and nature of opportunities also depends on the language level of everyone involved – for example, if the original speaker has some knowledge of English, they may correct the interpreter or the written account. Or, if the interpreter has a low understanding of English, the transcriber may end up omitting or improvising sections of the oral translation that are unclear. Or perhaps the speaker describes a cultural practice or belief system that has no parallel in the interpreter’s culture, so the interpreter makes an inaccurate cultural comparison to try to clarify things for the transcriber. And so on.

Here’s another example. A non-Japanese lecturer is teaching a lesson on Shinto in a US school. He draws a comparison between roadside Shinto shrines in Japan and Christian churches in the US. A student asks what kind of preparation he did for the lesson; he answers that he read Japanese textual sources on Shinto, interviewed Japanese Shinto practitioners, and visited several roadside Shinto shrines in Japan. Let’s do a flowchart.

Primary sources on Shinto – texts/interviews/shrines (in Japanese/Japan) –> lecturer’s translation/analysis of sources (in English) –> lecturer’s lesson (in English)

Again, there are opportunities for distortion at every transition in the flowchart. Did the lecturer correctly translate the Japanese texts? When interviewing Shinto practitioners, was he cognizant of his outsider status and how it might affect the answers he was given? When analyzing his findings, what kind of methodologies did he utilize? Did he account for the fact that western-centric ways of thought do not perfectly map onto all aspects of Japanese culture? How did he account for the resulting “gaps,” both in his analysis and in his accountability as a credible source for his students? What was his reasoning for comparing Shinto shrines to Christian churches?

I am not saying the lecturer in the above example is bad at his job. He could be outstandingly qualified to research and communicate academic information – from a western-centric perspective. The problem arises when he and his fellow academics attempt to fit the source materials to their methodology – and this is where I see fractures in the current US education system. For those of you who choose to work in (US) academia, I have a few questions.

  • What methodologies do you utilize in your research and/or when preparing lessons?
  • If someone challenges your methodology, how do you respond?
  • How do you feel about the methodologies you utilize? Are you satisfied with them? Do you find they fit your needs, or do you constantly reevaluate them?
  • If you are researching or teaching a subject from an outside perspective, how do you acknowledge your outsider status? How do you respond when insiders critique your approach and/or findings?
  • How do you feel about the current US education system? What changes would you like to see? Do you contribute to effecting these changes?

From what I’ve seen, if people in US academia are asking questions like these, they are doing it quietly, in places I mostly can’t seem to find.***** Very few of my college professors ever explicitly asked any of the above questions, at least in my hearing. Instead, we were given the tools to do the very best we could – within a western-centric academic framework. Marginalized perspectives were important – but ought to be evaluated by the same standards used for the “mainstream” narrative. If a source was not documented in a way considered “reliable” by our methodology, we were to consider it suspect. So.

I am not saying that western-centric academic frameworks are fundamentally “bad.” I am, however, saying that western-centric academic frameworks have, in the context of US academia, created a colonial institution designed primarily to favor the dominant (white) culture. The result is a kind of tunnel-vision, but one so thoroughly worked into the foundations of the US education system that many people fail to recognize it as such. All that talk about my college days wasn’t just narcissism – it’s a real-life example of how long it took me to get to where I am now, in terms of understanding both the legacies and ongoing issues of colonization in US academia. And I don’t assume I know it all.

If you’re thinking I hate the US education system – no, I don’t. I’m a product of that system and its effects on me, for better or worse. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post (I know, that was a lot of words ago), I have questions I haven’t found answers to yet. I’d like to know how many professional academics recognize the colonization inherent to US academia. I’d like to know how many professional academics acknowledge their role in this colonization. I’d like to know how many professional academics are actively trying to decolonize their institutions.

A final quick clarifier – I’ve used the term “colonization” broadly in this post, not just in the context of what was done/is being done to American Indian peoples and cultures, but also in reference to the ideologies that underlie the unquestioning (or insufficiently questioned) application of western-centric methodologies to non-western-centric information.******

Thanks for reading! Is it just me, or are these posts getting longer? Next time, I’ll have Part 2 of this series, where I reflect on the connections between what I wrote here and the world of fiction writing.

*In other words, this post will be written in the context of US academia, because it’s the only academia with which I have personal experience. Other people in other places on the internet have discussed their experiences in non-US academia – I highly recommend checking them out if this topic is of interest to you.

**There will be a post explaining this choice, sometime in the future. It’s a bit too long for a footnote or an in-text tangent.

***Unfortunately, I no longer recall the exact individuals whose work I read, but check out the Resources page for links to Native voices I’m currently following. Also, if you ARE researching Native issues from a western-centric standpoint, consider that some of the Native-produced sources you label as “secondary” might also be “primary,” depending on the circumstances. But before you do that, you might want to take a second look at your western-centric perspective to see if it’s really the “best fit” for the material you’re trying to cover. Is it something that might be more accurately represented by an insider perspective? Will there be “gaps” if you try to map your methodologies onto this topic?

****I’m not qualified to discuss these topics from anything other than a colonist’s perspective, so please read what Natives are saying about them.

*****I HAVE found a few, mostly through Twitter. But where are the others? Are they speaking up? Do they choose to stay silent? What motivates their choices?

******The colonization of indigenous peoples on this continent is not the same as the colonial experiences of nonwhite, non-indigenous peoples on this continent. Nonwhite people – both indigenous and non-indigenous – have written about their experiences with colonization on this continent at length in other places on the internet. Please look them up for firsthand accounts. This post is not comparing the colonial experiences of various groups; instead, it is a brief exploration of the colonizing nature of the current US education system, filtered through the lens of my personal experiences.